In 1993, a friend of mine came back to Dallas and mentioned a game that he had seen for sale in California. He thought I might like it. “It’s like Dungeons and Dragons crossed with collectible baseball cards,” he said.
Intrigued, I found a shop about a half mile from my house that was selling the game. It was called Magic: The Gathering. MTG was the first collectible card game on the market. Players bought ‘starter decks’ and ‘booster packs’ and tried to assemble a deck that would beat their opponent in the game. As there were 302 different cards in the original game, there were a lot of possible strategies for building your game deck. And as certain cards changed the rules or allowed you to suspend a rule for that card, the system rewarded creativity and originality.
Cards were either ‘common’, ‘uncommon’ or ‘rare’. That spoke to how many of them had been printed. And the rares were truly rare.
I got hooked on the game. Particularly because the first and second printings (Alpha and Beta, respectively), had black-bordered cards that would never be reprinted with the same borders. So that hinted at true collectability to me – not like the collectable items that sometimes proclaim ‘COLLECTIBLE!’ do in recent years – while manufacturing zillions of the item. So I spent a bit of money on starter decks – and a lot on booster packs (which promised as least one rare card per pack). I think I had about $700 spent on cards between the Alpha and Beta printings and the first expansion set of cards (called Arabian Nights).
I decided to collect a full set of the original cards – all 302. So, I traded a few cards at the local game shop and managed to complete a full set. At that time (1993-94), a full set of cards was worth about $100. But it was fun to have a complete set.
After the first expansion set was printed, the game became wildly popular and the company producing it (Wizards of the Coast), started printing so many cards in so many expansions, that I believed the true collectability of the cards in the new sets was lost.
I got a bit bored with the game and put everything away for 14 years. Then one of our daughters started college and we were running a bit low on cash reserves, so I looked to see what the set of 302 original cards was worth. This was in 2007 – and I found out that my set was worth around $14k. Ridiculously happy, my wife and I sold the set to a local card shop and paid for a year of my daughter’s college. Somewhere in there I threw all the remaining cards – the ones that were duplicates that I had purchased while trying to get a full set of cards, as well as a lot of cards from the first expansion set – into boxes and stored them away in the closet.
Fast forward to two months ago. On a whim, I decided to see what those remaining cards were worth. What I found made me fall over. Twice.
The cards had shot up in value as MTG has gotten even more popular over the years. Especially the first 3 printings (Alpha, Beta and Arabian Nights). As an example, a Black Lotus card (rare) in mint condition from the first printing can be worth more than $76k. One card. Many, many cards are worth hundreds of dollars. There are even companies that sell fractional shares of single cards as investments. Really.
I ended up selling about half of my cards to a game shop in Utah. Some of my cards were worth $5k or more. Some were only worth $10. But it totaled up to more than $112k. And I still have a bunch of cards that have value in them. I’ll be selling them over the next few months. As an aside, my wife and I are building a large covered back patio onto our house. We’ll be telling guests that we paid for all of it with cardboard.
God has been really, really good to us. And blessed us unbelievably through a game stuffed into the back of our closet for years. Just wanted to share a fun story.
This is amazing.
I started collecting and playing just after Arabian nights. Quit a long time ago but still have all the cards.
I had a friend pull a brand new Black Lotus out of the pack and offered it to me for $100. I declined. He sold it to the shop for $100.
I've been watching that card go up over the years.
We were both idiots.
That's an awesome story. I found a box of mine recently, and I've been thinking about going through it to see what the cards are worth. I didn't get into it until 4th edition and the two decks I played with (which would have had my best cards) are nowhere to be found but I know I have at least a couple cards in there worth a few bucks. I bet all told I have at least a few hundred to a few thousand dollars worth of cards, and you may inspire me to go through them.
"The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."
"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."
"I did," said Ford, "it is."
"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"
"It honestly doesn't occur to them. They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates the government they want."
"You mean they actually vote for the lizards."
"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."
"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"
"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard, then the wrong lizard might get in."
I remember it being popular when I was in Jr high (98-99)
Never could have imagined it being that insane.
Of course, being teenagers, most of the people I knew that played, their cards had decent wear/tear on them.
The Enemy's gate is down.
Wow. It's crazy how much people will pay for 'stuff'.
Congratulations on parting suckers from their money
|Raised Hands Surround Us|
Three Nails To Protect Us
Guess I should really try to find mine at my mom’s house.
I never really played just collected so they have probably zero wear. I don’t remember much about them but probably have about 1k cards.
I do know I have one Ice Age starter deck.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
|Little ray |
Wow, you were truly lucky on that. Good for you. How much would your original deck of 302 be worth now?
Stories like this though, encourage a lot of people to hang on to a lot of worthless crap though.
The fish is mute, expressionless. The fish doesn't think because the fish knows everything.
|I Am The Walrus|
I cry thinking how I sold my Ichiro and Albert Pujols rookie cards for a couple hundred dollars to finance books during undergrad.
|The Unmanned Writer|
I remember when those came out. I thought, "gee, those are dumb."
Bought a bunch of Fleer Ultra and Upper Deck baseball cards instead.
Only in an insane world are the sane considered insane.
The memories of a man in his old age
Are the deeds of a man in his prime
I have a friend of mine at work who has been playing for years. I don't know anything about the game but was intrigued at how much the cards sold for. He literally has a small gold mine in his collection. I remember one folder he had, the cards in it were worth $50,000.00 at least and there are many people willing to pay that price. Occasionally he sells one or two and goes on a vacation with the family. They even have online cards you can buy and they are worth big money as well.
The original 302 that I sold for 14k would be worth a minimum of $155k now. And yes, I kick myself for it. But I really thought the market had peaked at that point. Shows how wrong I was.
Congrats. My first GenCon was 1994. Magic (MtG) was pretty new but exploding onto the scene. As my buddies and I approached a skyway from a hotel to the main Con to get our even tickets (it was in Milwaukee then), I asked out loud if we'll see many folks playing MtG... Turn a corner and the entire skyway was packed minus a narrow path with like a hundred people playing.
My buddy Seth, a somewhat chubby chef, walking behind us says snarkily, "keep moving!" as he proceed to silently carpet bomb pretty much everyone sitting next to the path. I looked back and people looked like they got shot as they started waving their hands and gagging.
My buddy Dave, who I still see pretty regularly, was an avid collector and sold all of his rare MtG cards for $5-6K about 10 years ago. He was afraid the bubble would collapse. He says his collection would now be worth 4-5 times what he got for them at the time.
I found an unopened booster pack from 1995's Origin's gaming convention (in Philly) and sold it on Ebay for $40 4-5 years ago. Becauyse it MIGHT have held a card worth thousands...maybe it did?
|Not as lean, not as mean,|
Still a Marine
I remember when my friend got his Black Lotus. He sacrificed a mana card and wrote BL on it so that he could keep the real card in plastic.
All my cards were lost once I went into the Marines. I still think about getting back into it (there are numerous local groups popping up again) but I'd have to relearn it from scratch.
Was a lot easier to pick up as a kid when it was still 'new' itself!
I shall respect you until you open your mouth, from that point on, you must earn it yourself.
I collect a few board games and sometimes play in the stores that provide tables. Many of these places also sell MtG and I was amazed the first time I walked in on a MtG tournament by accident.
When that was hot in the early 90's, my friend owned a book store where I would occasionally work. He sold MTG cards briefly.
I say briefly because someone broke into the store one night, peeling the steel back door to the store to gain entry. The ONLY thing they took were the Magic the Gathering cards, which were on the counter, right next to the cash register full of money, which they did not bother to touch.
Sliced bread, the greatest thing since the 1911.
|Fighting the good fight|
Funnily enough, I actually watched a short documentary about this phenomenon a few months ago. (Called, naturally, "The Black Lotus".)
It's apparently not just about the "collectability" of the cards, like with baseball cards or similar.
It appears a lot of the early MtG cards are wildly unbalanced/overpowered (like the infamous Black Lotus), and have therefore been banned from normal play in MtG tournaments, many of which have large cash prizes. But some of these tournaments will have what's effectively an "Open Divison" (ala IDPA) where the restrictions are relaxed and even old banned cards are allowed.
So the older, rare, banned, overpowered cards now go for big bucks, not just because they're rare but because competitors want to acquire them to be able to use them to get a leg up in "open division" tournament play and hopefully collect the prize money.
|His Royal Hiney|
Congratulations. You had great insight and the gumption to follow through initially to get what you wanted.
Yeah, too bad about the first set you sold but you still got money out of it.
"It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, 1946.
Good for you! Pretty sure my 80s/90s baseball cards are still worth crap.
Glad it turned out well - super-well, in fact!
|Web Clavin Extraordinaire|
Several of my college roommates were really into MTG. One of them had 4 or 5 Black Lotus cards, which were all very nicely filed in protective binders.
Wonder how much their respective collections are/were worth and if they still have them.
Chuck Norris put the laughter in "manslaughter"
Educating the youth of America, one declension at a time.
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